GOP readies plan for fee on Pa. natural gas drilling

    Senate Republicans hope to introduce its natural gas drilling “impact fee” by the end of the week.

    In a phone interview, Drew Crompton, the chief of staff for Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, said the caucus is drafting the bill from scratch, rather than rewriting last year’s severance tax proposals.

    “That requires significant data runs and analysis, as it relates to the number of wells, the number of active wells, the number of permitted wells across the commonwealth,” he said. “So that work, as well as the legislative drafting work, has been ongoing for weeks. We hope we have a product by the end of the week.”

    It’s not clear how Senate Republicans would assess the fee. The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania is calling for a flat levy for each wellhead. The group’s executive director, Doug Hill, said county officials should be given flexibility on how to use the revenue, arguing drilling’s impact goes far beyond infrastructure wear and tear.

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    Counties are dealing with “things like increasing the planning requirements for our emergency management systems,” he said. “Doing addressing, so we can respond properly if there is an emergency at one of the sites. Even doing exercises so we can properly train our county staff and our volunteers to do those responses.

    “We’ve also seen impacts on things as diverse as land use, records management, human services, even some touches on the criminal justice system,” Hill said.

    Gov. Tom Corbett has said he’s open to an impact fee, but wants to wait for input from his Marcellus Shale Commission before moving forward. He stayed vague Monday when asked about the Senate GOP’s new timeline.

    “Obviously whenever they introduce legislation, we always take a look to see what the legislation is. I think the first question is, what is an impact? Is it more than just the trucks? Which I think it is more than just the trucks,” he said. “And where the money would go.”

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